COVINGTON STOCK-YARDS CO. v. KEITH et al.

139 U.S. 128 (11 S.Ct. 461, 35 L.Ed. 73)

COVINGTON STOCK-YARDS CO. v. KEITH et al.

Decided: March 2, 1891

Ed. Baxter, for appellant.

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Mr. Justice HARLAN, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.

On the 28th of January, 1886, George T. Bliss and Isaac E. Gates instituted in the court below a suit in equity against the Kentucky Central Railroad Company, a corporation of Kentucky, for the foreclosure of a mortgage or deed of trust given to secure the payment of bonds of that company for a large amount; in which suit a receiver was appointed, who took possession of the railroad, with authority to operate it until the further order of the court.

The present proceeding was begun on the 18th of June, 1886, by a petition filed in the foreclosure suit by Charles W. Keith, who was engaged in buying and selling on commission, as well as on his own account, live-stock brought to and shipped from the city of Covington, Ky., over the Kentucky Central Railroad. The petition proceeded upon the ground that unjust and illegal discrimination had been and was being made against Keith by the receiver, acting under and pursuant to a written agreement made November 19, 1881, between the railroad company and the Covington Stock-Yards Company, a corporation created under the general laws of Kentucky; the yards of the latter company located in Covington, and connected with the railroad tracks in that city, being the only depot of the railway company that was provided with the necessary platforms and chutes for receiving or discharging live-stock on and from its trains at that city. The petition alleged that Keith was the proprietor of certain live-stock lots and yards in that city immediately west of those belonging to the Covington Stock-Yards Company, and separated from them by only one street, 60 feet in width; that he was provided with all the necessary means of receiving, feeding, and caring for such stock as he purchased, or as might be consigned to him by others for sale; and that his lots and yards were used for that purpose subsequently to March 1, 1886, and until, by the direction of the receiver, the platforms connecting them with the railroad were torn up and rendered unfit for use. The prayer of the petitioner was for a rule against the receiver to show cause why he should not deliver to him at some convenient and suitable place outside of the lots or yards of the said Covington Stock-Yards Company, free from other than the customary freight charges for transportation, all stock owned by or consigned to him and brought over said road to Covington.

The receiver filed a response to the rule, and an order was entered giving leave to the Covington Stock-Yards Company to file an intervening petition against the railroad company and Keith, and requiring the latter parties to litigate between themselves the question of the validity of the above agreement of 1881. The stock-yards company filed such a petition, claiming all the rights granted by the agreement referred to, and allgin g that it had expended $60,000 in constructing depots, platforms, and chutes, as required by that agreement.

Referring to that agreement, it appears that the stock-yards company stipulated that its yards on the line of the railroad in Covington should be maintained in good order, properly equipped with suitable fencing, feeding-pens, and other customary conveniences for handling and caring for live-stock, and to that end it would keep at hand a sufficient number of skilled workmen to perform the operations required of it, and generally to do such labor as is usually provided for in stock-yards of the best class, namely, to load and unload and care for 'in the best manner all live-stock delivered to them by the party of the first part the railroad company at their own risk of damage while so doing, and in no event to charge more than sixty cents per car of full loads for loading, and sixty cents per car for unloading, and no charges to be made for handling less than full loads, as per way-bills.' The stock-yards company also agreed to become liable for those charges, and to collect and pay over to the railroad company, as demanded from time to time, such money as came into its hands; the charges for feeding and caring for live-stock not to be more than was charged for similar services and supplies at other stock-yards of the country. The railroad company, upon its part, agreed to pay the stock-yards company the above sums for loading and unloading, and otherwise acting as its agent in the collection of freights and charges upon such business as was turned over to it by the railroad company; that it would require all cars loaded at yards for shipment south or east to be carefully bedded, which the stock-yards company was to do at the rates usually charged in other yards; that it would make the yards of the stock-yards company its 'depot for delivery of all its live-stock' during the term of the contract, and not build, 'nor allow to be built, on its right of way, any other or yards for the reception of live-stock.' The delivery of stock in cars on switches or sidings provided for the purpose was to be considered a delivery of the stock to the stock-yards company, which, from that time, was to be responsible for the stock to the railroad company. To protect the business of the stock-yards company from damage in case the railroad extended its track over the Ohio river, the railroad company agreed that during the term of the contract the rate of freight from all points on its road and connections should 'not be less than five dollars per car more to the Union yards of Cincinnati than the rate to Covington yards from the same points;' that its business arrangements with any other railroad or transportation line should be subject to this agreement; and that the yards of the stock-yards company 'shall be the depot for all live-stock received from its connections for Cincinnati or eastern markets.' The agreement, by its terms, was to remain in force for 15 years.

In the progress of the cause, E. W. Wilson, by consent of parties, was made a copetitioner and co-respondent with Keith.

By the final decree it was found, ordered, and decreed as follows: 'It is the duty and legal obligation of the Kentucky Central Railroad Company, as a common carrier of live-stock, to provide suitable and convenient means and facilities for receiving on board its cars all live-stock offered for shipment over its road and its connections from the city of Covington, and for the discharge from its cars of all live-stock brought over its road to the said city of Covington, free of any charge other than the customary transportation charges to consignors or consignees; and that the said petitioners, Keith and Wilson, live-stock dealers and brokers, doing business at the city of Covington, and proprietors of the Banner Stock-Yards at that place, are entitled to so ship and receive over said road such live-stock without being subject to any such additional charges imposed by said receiver, said railroad company, or other ers on or corporation. The court further finds and decrees that the alleged contract entered into by and between the said railroad company and the said Covington Stock-Yards Company, of date the 19th day of November, 1881, does not entitle the said stock-yards company to impose upon any shipper of live-stock over said road, passing such stock through the yards of said company to and from the cars of said railroad company, any charge whatever for such passage. It is stipulated in said contract that said stock-yards company shall establish and maintain suitable yards or pens for receiving, housing, feeding, and caring for live-stock, and to receive all such stock, and load and unload the same upon and from the cars of said company transported on, or to be transported over, said road, for a compensation of sixty cents per car-load, to be paid by said railroad company for and during the period of fifteen years from the date of said contract, which has not yet expired, while the said railroad company agreed that it would not during said period establish, or allow to be established, on the line of its road or on its right of way in said city of Covington, any other platform or depot than that of said stock-yards company for the receipt or delivery of such live-stock. * * * The court doth further find that the general freight depot of the said railroad company in the said city of Covington, at the terminus of its road between Pike and Eighth streets, is not a suitable or convenient place for the receipt and delivery of live-stock brought to the said city, or to be shipped therefrom, over said road; and neither said railroad company nor said receiver having provided such suitable depot or place therefor, except the yards of said stock-yards company, it is now ordered and decreed that the said railroad company and said receiver shall hereafter receive and deliver from and to the said Keith & Wilson at and through the said Covington stock-yards all such live-stock as may be brought to them, or offered by them for shipment, over said road and its connections, upon the consent of said stock-yards, in writing, that it may be so done, being filed in this court and cause on or before the 1st day of January next after the entry of this decree, free of any charge for passing through said yards to and from the cars of said railroad company. In default of such consent being so filed, it is ordered and decreed that, upon said Keith & Wilson putting the platform and chute erected by them on the land of said Keith adjacent to the live-stock switch of said railroad company north of said stock-yards, the said railroad company and said receiver shall receive and deliver all such live-stock to said Keith & Wilson as shall be consigned to them or either of them, or be offered by them or either of them for shipment, at said platform. The said Keith & Wilson shall provide an agent or representative at said platform to receive such cattle as they may be notified by said railroad company or said receiver are to be delivered to them thereat, and they shall give the said railroad company or said receiver reasonable notice of any shipment desired to be made by them from said platform to conform to the departure of live-stock trains on said road.'

The railroad company, holding itself out as a carrier of live-stock, was under a legal obligation, arising out of the nature of its employment, to provide suitable and necessary means and facilities for receiving live-stock offered to it for shipment over its road and connections, as well as for discharging such stock after it reaches the place to which it is consigned. The vital question in respect to such matters is whether the means and facilities so furnished by the carrier, or by some one in its behalf, are sufficient for the reasonable accommodation of the public. But it is contended that the ecr ee is erroneous so far as it compels the railroad company to receive live-stock offered by the appellees for shipment, and to deliver live-stock consigned to them, free from any charge, other than the customary one for transportation, for merely passing into and through the yards of the Covington Stock-Yards Company to and from the cars of the railroad company. As the decree does not require such stock to be delivered in or through the yards of the appellant, except with its written consent filed in this cause; as such stock cannot be properly loaded upon or unloaded from cars within the limits of the city, except by means of inclosed lots or yards set apart for that purpose, and conveniently located, in or through which the stock may be received from the shipper or delivered to the consignee, without danger or inconvenience to the public in the vicinity of the place of shipment or discharge; and as the appellant has voluntarily undertaken to discharge the duty in these matters that rests upon the railroad company,—the contention just adverted to is, in effect, that the carrier may, without a special contract for that purpose, require the shipper or consignee, in addition to the customary and legitimate charges for transportation, to compensate it for supplying the means and facilities that must be provided by it in order to meet its obligations to the public. To this proposition we cannot give our assent.

When animals are offered to a carrier of live-stock to be transported, it is its duty to receive them; and that duty cannot be efficiently discharged, at least in a town or city, without the aid of yards in which the stock offered for shipment can be received and handled with safety, and without inconvenience to the public, while being loaded upon the cars in which they are to be transported. So, when live-stock reach the place to which they are consigned, it is the duty of the carrier to deliver them to the consignee; and such delivery cannot be safely or effectively made except in or through inclosed yards or lots, convenient to the place of unloading. In other words, the duty to receive, transport, and deliver live-stock will not be fully discharged unless the carrier makes such provision, at the place of loading, as will enable it to properly receive and load the stock, and such provision, at the place of unloading, as will enable it to properly deliver the stock to the consignee.

A railroad company, it is true, is not a carrier of live-stock with all the responsibilities that attend it as a carrier of goods. North Pa. R. Co. v. Commercial Bank, 123 U. S. 727, 734, 8 Sup. Ct. Rep. 266. There are recognized limitations upon the duty and responsibility of carriers of inanimate property that do not apply to carriers of live-stock. These limitations arise from the nature of the particular property transported. 'But,' this court said in the case just cited, 'notwithstanding this difference in duties and responsibilities, the railroad company, when it undertakes generally to carry such freight, becomes subject, under similar conditions, to the same obligations, so far as the delivery of the animals which are safely transported is concerned, as in the case of goods. They are to be delivered at the place of destination to the party designated to receive them if he presents himself, or can with reasonable efforts be found, or to his order. No obligation of the carrier, whether the freight consists of goods or live-stock, is more strictly enforced.' 1 The same principle necessarily applies to the receiving of live-stock by the carrier for transportation. The carrier must at all times be in proper condition both to receive from the shipper and to deliver to the consignee, according to the nature of the property to be transported, as well as to the necessities of the respective localities in which it is received and delivered. A carrier of live-stock has no more right to make a special charge for merely receiving or merely delivering such stock, in and through stock-yrds provided by itself, in order that it may properly receive and load, or unload and deliver, such stock, than a carrier of passengers may make a special charge for the use of its passenger depot by passengers when proceeding to or coming from its trains, or than a carrier may charge the shipper for the use of its general freight depot in merely delivering his goods for shipment, or the consignee of such goods for its use in merely receiving them there within a reasonable time after they are unloaded from the cars. If the carrier may not make such special charges in respect to stock-yards which itself owns, maintains, or controls, it cannot invest another corporation or company with authority to impose burdens of that kind upon shippers and consignees. The transportation of live-stock begins with their delivery to the carrier to be loaded upon its cars, and ends only after the stock is unloaded and delivered, or offered to be delivered, to the consignee, if to be found, at such place as admits of their being safely taken into possession.

We must not be understood as holding that the railroad company in this case was under any legal obligation to furnish, or cause to be furnished, suitable and convenient appliances for receiving and delivering live-stock at every point on its line in the city of Covington where persons engaged in buying, selling, or shipping live-stock chose to establish stock-yards. In respect to the mere loading and unloading of live-stock, it is only required by the nature of its employment to furnish such facilities as are reasonably sufficient for the business at that city. So far as the record discloses, the yards maintained by the appellant are, for the purposes just stated, equal to all the needs, at that city, of shippers and consignees of live-stock; and, if the appellees had been permitted to use them without extra charge for mere 'yardage,' they would have been without just ground of complaint in that regard; for it did not concern them whether the railroad company itself maintained stock-yards, or employed another company or corporation to supply the facilities for receiving and delivering live-stock it was under obligation to the public to furnish. But as the appellant did not accord to appellees the privileges they were entitled to from its principal, the carrier, and as the carrier did not offer to establish a stock-yard of its own for shippers and consignees, the court below did not err in requiring the railroad company and the receiver to receive and deliver live-stock from and to the appellees at their own stock-yards in the immediate vicinity of appellant's yards, when the former were put in proper condition to be used for that purpose, under such reasonable regulations as the railroad company might establish. It was not within the power of the railroad company, by such an agreement as that of November 19, 1881, or by agreement in any form, to burden the appellees with charges for services it was bound to render without any other compensation than the customary charges for transportation.

Decree affirmed.

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Myrick v. Railroad Co., 107 U. S. 102, 107, 1 Sup. Ct. Rep. 425; Hall v. Renfro, 3 Metc. (Ky.) 51, 54; Mynard v. Railroad Co., 71 N. Y. 180; Smith v. Railroad Co., 12 Allen, 531, 533; Kimball v. Railroad Co., 26 Vt. 247, 255; Railroad Co. v. Henlein, 52 Ala. 606, 613; Wilson v. Hamilton, 4 Ohio St. 722, 740; Ayres v. Railroad Co., 71 Wis. 372, 379, 381, 37 N. W. Rep. 432; McCoy v. Railroad Co., 44 Iowa, 424, 426; Maslin v. Railroad Co., 14 W. Va. 180, 188; Railway Co. v. Dorman, 72 Ill. 504; Moulton v. Railway Co., 31 Minn. 85, 87, 16 N. W. Rep. 497; Railway Co. v. Nichols, 9 Kan. 235, 248; Clarke v. Railroad Co., 14 N. Y. 570, 573; Palmer v. Railroad Co., 4 Mess. & W. 749.